“I chose to kneel as a way to stand up for marginalized and oppressed people,” said Kelly D. Holstine, the 2019 Teacher of the Year from Minnesota. Afterward, she tweeted:
Honored as State Teachers of the Year at NCAA Champ FB Game. Given platform to stand up for marginalized and oppressed people. Like many before, I respectfully kneeled during Nat’l Anthem because, “No one is free until we are all free” #imwithkap #blacklivesmatter #LGBTQ
The kneeling protests began in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick, the backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, first sat down and then knelt during the singing of the anthem to protest police shootings of unarmed black men. Trump lambasted the players, and said those who knelt “maybe shouldn’t be in the country.”
The White House did not provide a comment about the action by Holstine, who last year was one of two educators who boycotted an Oval Office ceremony featuring the president and state program winners.
Holstine said she told some of her teaching colleagues that she planned to kneel during the anthem and asked whether they wanted to participate. Nobody else did, she said, “but they all understood why I was doing it and were supportive.”
The 2019 winners were at the football game between Louisiana State University and Clemson University (LSU won) as part of a program developed by the College Football Playoff Foundation and the Council of Chief State School Officers, which sponsors the annual Teachers of the Year contest. Winners are chosen from each state and U.S. territory, and every year a national winner is named.
In 2018, Trump was the subject of a silent protest by the national teacher of the year at a White House ceremony. Mandy Manning of Washington state, who received an award from Trump, handed him letters from her refugee and immigrant students, and she wore pins and buttons with political messages, including one in support of the LGBTQ community.
In 2019, Manning created a group called Teachers Against Child Detention and led a “teach-in” near the Texas-Mexico border calling for the release of immigrant children being held in border camps by the U.S. government.